April 2004

Prettig Koninginnedag

Its just turned April 30th - Queens Day, a day long celebration incorporating flea markets, block parties, canal parties, street parties and more.

I shall be joining the crowds in Amsterdam, so have a great weekend wherever you are.

Queen's Day

Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power

This article from the Guardian highlights some of the more worrying beliefs of the US Republican Party in general and the Bush administration in particular.

(via Keys Corner)

An excess of paranoia

Secret Service questions student on drawings

Secret Service agents questioned a high school student about anti-war drawings he did for an art class, one of which depicted President Bushs head on a stick.

Im lost for words. If the US authorities genuinely believe that they are under threat from 15 year old boys armed with pencils, wed best all take cover for when the bombing starts.

(via Keys Corner)

Poodle politics part 2: What the ambassadors said

BBC Online has the full text of the letter sent by more than 50 former British ambassadors to Tony Blair, urging him either to influence US policy in the Middle East or to stop backing it.

We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high commissioners, governors and senior international officials, including some who have long experience of the Middle East and others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close co-operation with the United States.

Following the press conference in Washington at which you and President Bush restated these policies, we feel the time has come to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be addressed in Parliament and will lead to a fundamental reassessment.

The decision by the USA, the EU, Russia and the UN to launch a Road Map for the settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the West and the Islamic and Arab worlds.

But the hopes were ill-founded. Nothing effective has been done either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence.

Britain and the other sponsors of the Road Map merely waited on American leadership, but waited in vain.

Worse was to come. After all those wasted months, the international community has now been confronted with the announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more Israeli and Palestinian blood.

Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land and which have been the basis for such successes as those efforts have produced.

This abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq.

The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement.

All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the Coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case.

To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful.

Policy must take account of the nature and history of Iraq, the most complex country in the region.

The military actions of the Coalition forces must be guided by political objectives and by the requirements of the Iraq theatre itself, not by criteria remote from them.

It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter for local commanders.

Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition.

We share your view that the British government has an interest in working as closely as possible with the United States on both these related issues, and in exerting real influence as a loyal ally.

We believe that the need for such influence is now a matter of the highest urgency.

If that is unacceptable or unwelcome there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure.

The signatories are: Brian Barder; Paul Bergne; John Birch; David Blatherwick; Graham Boyce; Julian Bullard; Juliet Campbell; Bryan Cartledge; Terence Clark; David Colvin; Francis Cornish; James Craig; Brian Crowe; Basil Eastwood; Stephen Egerton; William Fullerton; Dick Fyjis-Walker; Marrack Goulding; John Graham; Andrew Green; Vic Henderson; Peter Hinchcliffe; Brian Hitch; Archie Lamb and David Logan.

Also: Christopher Long; Ivor Lucas; Ian McCluney; Maureen MacGlashan; Philip McLean; Christopher MacRae; Oliver Miles; Martin Morland; Keith Morris; Richard Muir; Alan Munro; Stephen Nash; Robin ONeill; Andrew Palmer; Bill Quantrill; David Ratford; Tom Richardson; Andrew Stuart; David Tatham; Crispin Tickell; Derek Tonkin; Charles Treadwell; Hugh Tunnell; Jeremy Varcoe; Hooky Walker; Michael Weir and Alan White.

Poodle politics

Former ambassadors unite to condemn Blairs foreign policy

Tony Blair was facing a severe crisis of confidence in his foreign policy yesterday after an unprecedented attack from dozens of the most senior figures in the British diplomatic service.

The letter from 52 former ambassadors and heads of mission who held the most senior postings in the Foreign Office, lambasted Mr Blair for abandoning his principles over the road-map to peace in the Middle East and criticised the United States-led coalition in Iraq for failing to plan for the post-Saddam era.

Blair does seem to have gotten the idea that special relationship means agree with Bush. With Bush abandoning his commitment to the Middle East roadmap in favour of Ariel Sharons unilateralism, Blairs influence in the White House has been shown to be precisely zero.

And then there is Iraq. Rather than argue the humanitarian case for the removal of a genocidal dictator such as Saddam, Blair uncritically repeated - and even elaborated on - Bushs scare stories about weapons of mass destruction.

Rather than press the White House to develop a plan for the reconstruction of Iraq, he simply went along with a strategy that
didnt look any further than the removal of Saddam.

Blairs inability to disagree with Bush on any issue is not in Britains interest, its not in Americas interest and it certainly isnt helping in the Middle East.

As soon as Id posted this entry, I happened to read this.

The US on Monday (26 April) indicated that it would not force the issue of air sky marshalls on transatlantic flights if EU countries reject such a measure.

Asa Hutchinson, US under-secretary for border security, told his EU counterparts that Washington would look to other security measures instead.

His comments come after some countries, such as Denmark and Portugal, signalled they would rather cancel flights if there was a suspicion of risk than see armed air marshalls on board.

Sometimes, asserting your principles is more effective than acquiescing.

Quote of the Day: So whats the point?

It wouldnt have solved Madrid
- David Blunkett, admitting that ID cards wouldnt stop terrorists

Fortuyns Legacy

Poor migrants not wanted by problem cities

Dutch face critics over deportation plan

IND threatens to deport 19-month-old girl

Pre-arrival integration moves a step closer

For a long time the Netherlands was - rightly - known as a bastion of tolerance. So its a shame that mainstream politicians are becomming increasingly willing to allow themselves to be driven by the agenda of the anti-immigration right.

Its a shame that this countrys long standing respect and understanding of the enriching influence different cultures is being abandoned for the empty panacea of integration. Learning the Dutch language and gaining an understanding of the national culture are both very good things and should be encouraged. Unfortunately, in the hands of the government, integration has become a euphamism for exclusion.

The Dutch cabinet, for example, decided last month that all non-EU wishing to emigrate to the Netherlands to join a partner should complete an integration course before they depart their home country. But this doesnt apply to people from he US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Japan.

So integration only applies to those people who want to better themselves and, in doing so, contribute both economically and culturally to their host society.

Maintaining social cohesion, reducing crime and combating discrimination and intolerance are all very worth goals. But this sort or veiled racism is not the way to achieve any of them.

Most people who travel to a different country do want to become part of that culture. They do want to better themselves, to work, to become a part of society.

Integration is something that should be encouraged, not enforced.

BayStar wants their money back

Back in March, I commented on this article which revealed that Microsoft had introduced the company with no product to the investment fund BayStar Capital.

It turns out that the investment was not a good one for BayStar and now BayStar wants their money back.

Civil liberties? What civil liberties?

From Downing Street Says

Asked to explain the Home Secretarys comments over Easter suggesting that logistics and practicalities were now the issue rather than civil liberties, the PMOS reminded journalists that that was precisely what we had been saying last November. Asked if he was indicating that the Cabinet had now dealt with questions arising from the issue of civil liberties and ID cards, the PMOS said that the issues of logistics and practicalities were the ones that we were examining.

Does this meant that civil liberties have never been a consideration for the UK government?

Worth 1000 words

Heres a nifty cartoon, from Zentelligence, that effectively sums the ineffectiveness of Blunketts proposed identity cards.

Osama Bin London

As for the risk of being caught

However, our earlier example, Mr Osama Bin London, previously of Acacia Avenue, SW18, will be aware of a new offence to be announced by David Blunkett, �possession of a false document�, which carries maximum penalty of ten years in prison, slightly less than sentence for being convicted of exploding in a public place, so it�s likely that he will have ditched his suitcase full of passports, paid his �35 and dutifully placed his thumbprint � not his photo mind you � on his brand new UK ID card, which says he Tom Jones.